The year was 1972 and I traveled with the Lester Flatt Show, serving a dual role as Lester's manager and agent. It's the year I met Marty Stuart. A quick check of old booking records revealed the date was January 30th, twenty years ago this month. Backstage at that Sunday matinee in Natchez, Mississippi, Jesse Mcreynolds introduced a twelve year old Marty Stuart ( who didn't appear to be near that old ) to Lester in my presence, Marty promptly "burned" "rawhide" on the mandolin to the absolute astonishment of Lester and me. Flatt was immeasurably impress, to say the least. Marty spent the following summer in Nashville "hanging out" with Roland White and other pickers and spending a lot of time at Lester's house. One day Lester came by office and told me he was thinking about hiring "Marty" ( as Lester called him from that day forward )
To play the guitar in the "Nashville Grass" Lester's Band; Roland White was mandolin player. Lester had a way of asking my opinion about things he'd already made up his mind to do. Everybody was on salary and since I made up the payroll every week I was very conscious of what another paycheck and its attendant payroll taxes would cost. Lester countered that he had that figured out: Marty would work for about half what the other band member were paid and his parents agreed to it. Then later on, after he'd gained more recognition he'd go full salary. But the music industry of 1972 in Nashville was a different world from that of 1992. Local 257's crusty old secretary and final word, the late George Cooper said no dice. Lester was in too deep to back out so Marty boarded the bus to leave with the rest of us for his first date, Glasgow, Delaware, that Labor Day weekend of 1972, just 30 days before his 13th Birthday. And about the "Marny" thing, fans wondered and commented on it the following years. We just shrugged and said "well it's not right but Lester calls him that so we don't argue with him" a few old timers always thought we had it figured out.
Marty Stuart With Lester Flatt
Lester's long-time associate, Curly Seckler's oldest son named Marny and Flatt was the ultimate creature of habit, but who knows. For six months Marty mostly just stood to the rear and played rhythm guitar but when Roland left March 15th, 1973, to join his brother Clarence, Marty took over as mandolin player. He quickly moved also into harmony vocals and featured roles. He remained with Lester Flatt until ill heath forced the bluegrass legend to release his band with three weeks pay at Christmas of 1978, less than five months before Lester's death. The Career of Marty Stuart during the 1980's is well known. The frustrations of a career of his own after employment with both Doc Watson and Johnny Cash Show, a failed marriage and a short lived recording association with CBS Records. What is far better known is the awesome popularity that he has achieved since the release of his first MCA Records single and the enormous success that has come his way during the past two years. Marty is in natural element now, playing hot, bluesylead guitar, writing and singing great songs and absolutely defining hillbilly rockabilly sound that Carl Perkins and Elvis pioneered in the mid-1950's
Charlie Nixon - Kenny Ingram - Curly Seckler - Pete Corum - Clearence Tater - Marty Stuart
It's selling product like crazy and in my book it's country music. no string section, no horns, just hillbilly rock and it's an important part of the southern country music culture that also gave us such giants as Hank Williams, Jerry Lee Lewis and Moon Mulicon. The Recordings herein are a fascinating retrospective on the early years of Marty's career, when as a mandolin player, he was playing bluegrass. The cuts are down from stage shows with Lester Flat as well as studio recordings that feature him both as a vocalist and playing either mandolin of lead guitar for beyond his years. It is good music, played without present day restrictions that dictate what must or must not be played in order to sell. It is Marty Stuart just being himself and all before he reached the age of twenty !! It hardly seems like it's been over thirteen years since circumstances forced us to go our separate ways. Which brings me to something that says more about Marty than even his great music can say. Pretty often I talked to old mutual bluegrass friends of Marty and myself and their comment is always the same success and mingling with country music moguls hasn;t changed in the slightest .
Marty Stuart ( far Right with great Lester Flatt and The Nashville Grass
On rare occasion I do get to see him it's very apparent he has no desire
to "play the role" try as I might I can't detect any difference whatsoever in
the Marty of today and in the Marty who was everybody's friend as a "sideman" in
Lester Flatt's Nashville Grass. It's a lesson not all of today country music stars have
learned and some never will. Thinking back, I can recall meeting for the first time
comparatively few of the many friends I've made over the years. Marty is the exception,
but then he always was exceptional at whatever he under took to do. you'd have to have
been there but when I first met and observed a twelve year old Marty Stuart from
Philadelphia, Mississippi, that Sunday afternoon in Natchez, it definitelystruck me that
he didn't fit the mold of the average kid he was special even back then. The ensuing
twenty years have only served to reaffirm my judgement of him: a consummate professional
in every sense of the word.
Revised: September 02, 2007